After weeks of Sandy-induced delay and reports of discontent among union membership, Newark teachers approved a “groundbreaking” new contract Wednesday,1,767 to 1,088. The new deal includes bonuses for high performance, an important first step for performance-related teacher pay in a state that has historically been a bastion of union strength and intransigence. Its value from a reform perspective, however, is mostly symbolic: Heavily subsidized by private donors (see Zuckerberg, Mark) despite Newark’s already-breathtaking per-pupil spending, the agreement would offer yearly awards of up to $5,000 to educators rated “highly effective”—a designation that would factor in fellow teachers’ evaluations. A traditional compensation option would also be available to teachers who prefer the status quo: hardly a transformative or replicable model.
The new Newark contract is hardly a transformative or replicable model.
Even still, approval was far from certain: Despite the strong support of media-darling Mayor Cory Booker and the blessing of American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, many rank-and-file union members expressed strong reservations about the deal—one caucus within the union even warned that “it means indentured servitude for education workers.”
The union membership was right to take the deal. As Weingarten said, it is “a win for students, a win for teachers and a win for Newark.” National and local AFT chiefs deserve plenty of credit for making it happen: Reformers often gloss how challenging it must be for open-minded union leaders to persuade teachers to overcome decades of dogmatic resistance to the
Late last week, the US Department of Education announced the 20 winners of the latest “Investing in Innovation” competition.
On its website, the Department has a number of documents worth checking out if you’d like to learn a little more about the competition itself and those awarded funds. Here are the things that jumped out at me.
- I had never heard of most of the winners. Of late, the ed-reform community has become enamored of a number of flashy tech organizations that focus particularly on hybrid learning and the transition to Common Core. Most of these winners are outside of that cool-kids lunch table. Lesson to reformers: We should start grazing around the rest of the cafeteria.
- Almost three times the amount of money was given to “validation” awards (up to $15m) than to “development” awards (up to $3m); no money was given to the largest “scale up” categories (up to $25m).
- Grants were pretty well spread among the five absolute-priority areas, such as “Teachers and Principals,” “STEM,” and “Parent and Family.” However, only one award was given in the area of “Standards and Assessments” (to Jobs for the Future for work in the Rio Grande Valley and Denver, CO). This is a huge surprise, given the number of organizations that talk wide-eyed about the intersection of technology and Common Core. I would’ve expected a bunch of winners in the area of formative/interim assessments, lesson plans, online courses, etc.
- After lots of
Lots of people are weighing in on the implications of Tuesday’s election results.
- Eduwonk Rotherham has a good piece in Time magazine lamenting Tony Bennett’s loss (my thoughts on that here), celebrating the wins for charter schools, and noting the continued strength of teachers unions when they are tested.
- Mike comes to many of the same conclusions. Tom Luna’s losses get his attention, as do a number of results from the Midwest.
- Stergios also highlights the charter wins and the fallout from Bennett’s undoing (particularly regarding Common Core) and adds accountability and ESEA reauthorization to the list of affected subjects.
- Naturally, the prolific Rick Hess has a series of posts on the subject, declaring the night a split decision for reformers. He emphasizes the union wins and the subtle split in the reform community between conservatives and progressives. See here for his take on Bennett’s loss and its implications for Common Core.
- The WSJ’s Stephanie Branchero also concludes that voters are divided. Branchero discusses Luna’s losses, the charter win in WA, and CA’s decision to spend more on schools.
- Politics K-12 is already looking ahead, surfacing the five big issues facing Secretary Duncan during the second term.
One final thought from yours truly: Lots of reformers, especially those in the ed-tech camp, continue to think that Common Core is just about the best thing produced in eons. So there’s a good deal of cheerleading going on, and
Want to know if school reform is winning in the court of public opinion? If the myriad efforts at ed-reform advocacy are paying off? Here are seven races and referenda to watch tonight, in order of importance:
Ed Reform Idol Tony Bennett with the author.
Photo by Joe Portnoy.
1. Tony Bennett’s re-election
No one has pushed a more aggressive education-reform agenda than Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction (and Ed-Reform Idol) Tony Bennett and his fellow ed-reform activist Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels. A big win will give a big boost to Hoosier-style reform.
2. The Washington State charter initiative
Seattle is the largest city in the country that doesn’t have any charter schools. This initiative would finally fix that. Charter supporters have failed at the polls before; will they prevail this time around?
3. Idaho’s Propositions 1 and 2
These two referenda would limit the scope of collective bargaining and mandate that student achievement be included in teacher evaluations. The unions are fighting these aggressively; New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is paying to defend them.
4. Michigan’s Proposition 2
This union-backed measure would enshrine collective-bargaining rights in the state constitution. Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst group is working to defeat it.
5. Georgia’s charter-school resolution
This would amend the
About the Editor
Michael J. Petrilli
Executive Vice President
Mike Petrilli is one of the nation's foremost education analysts. As executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, he oversees the organization's research projects and publications and contributes to the Flypaper blog and weekly Education Gadfly newsletter.
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